Problem solving Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
wheels

Dude, Where are My Wheels

I recently visited Los Angeles and drove through an area that I grew up around. I was regaling my wife with a personal story about a job I had in a pretty tough neighborhood when I was in college. It was about how having a strong network can always help you in difficult situations. At the end of the story, she said, “You have to write about this “Wheels” experience!” So, here it is.

Dude, Where are My Wheels

I grew up in a very working-class environment early in my life. It was roughly 1975, working on my bachelor’s degree while I was employed at a hardware store in South El Monte, California. Now, you have to understand that South El Monte was a pretty tough neighborhood. We had a fair number of gangs active in the area.

We closed the store one evening around 7:00 p.m. It took about 30 minutes to close all the registers and leave the store. In that 30-minute period, a lot could happen in that particular neighborhood. Around 7:30 p.m., we walked out of the store and found one of the employee’s cars sitting in the parking lot. It was literally propped up on blocks. Someone had stolen all four of my co-worker’s “awesome” wheels and left the car on four concrete blocks where it sat, waiting for him when he got off work. Clearly, he was apoplectic when we walked out. He went absolutely crazy!

What’s amazing to me was that one of the employees who lived locally said to the other employee, “Calm down, relax and give me a while. I’ll make a call and see what I can do. Go back into the store and wait. I’ll let you know when to come back out.”

Within an hour, he came in and said it was OK to come back out. We went back into the parking lot, and lo and behold, there was his car with the wheels. They were re-installed, bright shiny rims and all — good as new!

It turns out that the local employee had friends in the gang that was known for heisting awesome wheels off cars. He simply made a call to one of the members he knew well (to clarify, he wasn’t in the gang, but he “knew people” in the gang). All it took to have the wheels returned was one phone call to that one gang member he knew well. I was about 18 years old, and I think this was one of the first really powerful lessons I experienced about the value of  an important tenet in networking.

Knowing the right people

This unfortunate story in my youth taught me the importance of knowing the right people. It helped me to learn that it’s not what you know — or who you know, it’s how well you know each other that counts.

‘No-Win’ Scenario

How I Approach The ‘No-Win’ Scenario

When I was an undergraduate in college, I needed to take one more “lab class” (a course that gives hands-on experience related to the topic). I’d taken lab classes in science and the only lab courses left according to my counselor was a lab class in mathematics. Now, I did fine with basic mathematics but the higher-level courses in Algebra and Geometry were just not my passion. OK, full disclosure, I hated those courses. So, when my counselor said that was the only choice left – I went on a quest, a quest to go through every single page of the course catalog for every single department throughout the University (except the Math department), to find any other class with a lab that I hadn’t already taken. I felt like it was a ‘No-Win’ scenario.

After a painstaking search through the huge catalog, I found one course that fit the bill. It was a course in the Hotel and Restaurant Management School at the University. The course was in Enology (the study of wines). The lab part was – wine tasting! Now, you might think that I was excited at first but the truth is – I hated wine. I really didn’t like it. The only thing is, I hated math more than I hated wine so – Enology it was!

I took this revelation to my department counselor and he said – “No! you can’t take that as your lab!” I said “Why not? It is a lab and it meets all the university requirements for me to complete my degree?” He said, “because it’s unheard of to use that as a lab in this department.” I then said, “But is it prohibited? Where in the department requirements does it say that it can’t be used?” He cocked his head and looked at me over the top of his glasses and said, “alright Misner, give me the paper, I’ll sign it and get out of here.” I smiled and said, “Thank you very much professor,” and walked out with the paperwork to complete my Enology wine lab.

At that moment, I had no idea that the course I was taking would become a life-long passion. Remember, I didn’t really like wine back then. The course was much more difficult than students thought it would be. We had an almost 40% drop out rate for the class because it wasn’t just about “tasting” wines. It was about the wine industry and wine regulations so the tests were pretty tough. The tasting was only a part of the class. Today, it is a passion for me. I built out a cellar at my home in Austin (pictured here) that will hold 1,600 bottles (it’s not full – yet but I’m working on it) and I just started working on a Sommelier Certification just for fun. This path all began because I didn’t believe in the “No-Win scenario” as the only possibility relating to a challenge.

The ‘No-Win’ Scenario

I share this story with you because I truly believe that there are ‘almost’ always options to a no-win situation if you work hard to find alternative solutions (maybe even push the envelope a bit). For the Star Trek nerds out there – I’d like to think I’d pass the Kobayashi Maru simulation (the no-win scenario mentioned several times Star Trek).

What no-win situation have you been confronted with and how did you find a solution? I’d love for you to share it here.

What’s in the Way Becomes the Way

What’s in the Way Becomes the Way

When I was a child, my teachers all had the same complaint: “Ivan talks too much.” What my teachers saw as a problem ended up being an advantage. My job is to talk to people, and I am paid well to “talk too much”. I was able to take what was in the way and turn it around. It now becomes the way.

My teachers felt that it was a problem for me in school. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t give me too much grief on the subject. While the teachers generally thought it was a roadblock to my learning, I think they may have been wrong on that. What my teachers saw as a problem ended up cutting an incredible passion: I love to talk.

The secret here is to take the thing that’s in the way and channel your efforts in a manner that makes that problem part of the solution.

Please watch this video:

In 1985, I had a massive thing in his way. I had lost a client and could hardly manage to pay the mortgage, so I started a referral group to help myself and my friends generate more referrals in a structured way. That group became BNI, bringing success not just to me, but to thousands of business owners around the world.

Successful people know how to focus on a roadblock and turn it into an overpass. I think the secret here for anyone is to take the thing that is in the way and channel your efforts in a way that makes the problem part of the solution. What are your achievements?

To learn more, listen to BNI Podcast #564

Episode 564: What’s in the Way Becomes the Way

What’s been in your way that you’ve turned into an advantage? If something is in your way now, how do you plan to channel it? Share your experiences in the comments.

HIDWAL

I Hit HIDWAL

In Good to Great, Jim Collins opened up a whole new paradigm for many people.  He showed us that “bad” is not the enemy of “great.”  “Good” is the enemy of “great.”  Everyone can recognize when something is really horrible.  It is, in fact, “good” that is the enemy of great performance.  We’ve all heard the expressions: “it’s good enough,” “things are ok,” “it’s not bad,” “we’re doing alright,” “hey, it’s good enough for government work, right?”  This is metastatic mediocrity at work.

I love what I do, and I am passionate about helping people improve their businesses and their networking efforts to achieve success.  While doing this, I sometimes come across people who would like to be more successful, but they aren’t really committed to making a change in their circumstances.

They have what I would call a success disconnect.  They want to be more successful, but for some incomprehensible reason, they don’t see a connection between their desire for success and the behavior they are embracing.  On one hand, they say they’d “like to be making more money,” but then a few moments later they’ll say things which indicate that they are uncomfortable making the necessary changes.  Take my absolute favorite success disconnect statement: “You don’t understand, Ivan; this won’t work here because…” then fill in the blank with the excuse de jour. Over the years, I’ve found that “good enough,” eventually leads to “metastatic mediocrity.”

I call this condition the “I HIT HIDWAL Syndrome,” or:

I’m

Happy
In
This

Hole (and)
I
Don’t
Want
A
Ladder!

You may be reading this and thinking, “this is a crazy statement” – but give it some time.  I promise, you will be out talking to someone in the future, and you will hear them complaining about their circumstances.  You will then offer them a referral to someone with ideas that will help them, or you may give them some ideas of your own that could help them, and they will tell you all the reasons those ideas won’t work for them.

At that moment – I want you to STOP and think about this article and envision a great big sticker on that person’s forehead that reads: “I HIT HIDWAL.”

Yes, I’m Happy In This Hole (and) I Don’t Want A Ladder!

Now you and I both know that they may really “need” a ladder – but they just don’t “want” a ladder. My entire professional career has been dedicated to those who want a ladder!  I want to work with people who recognize they are in a hole and they want out.  I have also learned over time that when it comes to taking advice – some will, some won’t, so what!  Not everyone is in the place where they recognize they even “need” the ladder.  Before they can “want” it, they need to recognize they “need” it.  If they don’t recognize they need it, then offering them help (or a ladder) will be of no use whatsoever.

I’ve also learned that I can’t help the ones that think the “hole” is the natural state of things.  These are people who’ve become comfortable with where they are and have become so accustomed to the great big hole they reside in that they think it’s just part of the landscape.

I can, however, help the ones who recognize their condition and know they want out. More importantly, they not only want out of the hole they are currently in, but they will do just about whatever it takes to get themselves out of that hole! We can only help those who are ready and willing to be helped.

As an entrepreneur in your profession, you will meet people that need your help all the time.  My advice to you is: figure out if they’re ready for the ladder.  If not, let them know you’re ready for them when they’re ready for you, and then move on to someone who desperately wants that ladder you’re going to send down to them.

Good is the enemy of great.  Look around.  Are you in a hole? Do you know people in a hole?  There’s a way out.  I promise. Find someone who can be a mentor and a coach — even a “virtual mentor” in books and videos. Find someone with the ladder that is needed to get out of that hole and start climbing out to success.

Why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option?  Excellence is an option.

Mistakes

Why Make All the Mistakes, When We Can Learn from Others?

There are “tried-and–true” networking techniques that are so simplistic they seem that they cannot be really effective.  Many times, we try to re-evaluate, improve upon and complicate them.  Why make all the mistakes, when we can learn from others? An experience I had once while on vacation reminds me of how we try to make some things harder than they really are.

I was in Hawaii enjoying the surf when, unbeknownst to me, the water became thick with Portuguese Man O’War jellyfish.  Suddenly I felt a stinging sensation across my chest.  I wiped my chest with my right wrist and arm and lifted my arm up out of the water.  I saw the tentacles dripping off my arm and followed them with my eyes about 8 feet away to the body of the Man O’War jellyfish.   With mounting alarm, I shook the tentacles off my wrist back into the water and quickly swam out of the surf to the shore.

I ran up to the first hotel employee I saw, a cabana boy, who was serving drinks to a sunbathing couple just off the pool deck and urgently exclaimed, “I think I’ve just been hit in the chest by a Man O’War jellyfish!  What should I do??”

“Are you feeling any pressure in your chest?” he wanted to know.

“No, none at all,” I replied anxiously.

“Okay, okay, here’s what you need to do.  Go on over to the market off the lobby and ask for some vinegar and meat tenderizer.  You’re going to want to spray the vinegar onto your chest. Shake the meat tenderizer onto the same spot and rub it all around.  You’ll be fine,” he assured me.

Well, I must say that I was less than impressed with this bizarre advice.  He was entirely too calm and that was entirely too easy to be a real solution – not to mention that it was just plain strange.  I figured he was doing a version of “let’s goof on the tourist,” so I moved on to ask someone else for help.

I spotted a hotel employee standing not too far off and gingerly jogged over to him, urgently repeating my exclamation, “I’ve just been hit in the chest by a Man O’War jellyfish; what should I do?!”

He said, “Are you feeling any pressure in your chest?”  Oh boy, I thought, next he’s going to tell me to get some meat tenderizer!  I thought he was kidding, or maybe I was in a bad dream and just couldn’t wake up.

“No, I’m not feeling any pressure in my chest,” I reluctantly responded.

“Okay, then go over to the market off the lobby and ask for some vinegar and meat tenderizer.  You have to get that on your chest and rub it around and then you’ll be just fine,” he said reassuring.  I felt anything but reassured.

By this time, I thought that maybe I better find someone who might really know what to do.  I headed up to the lobby, thinking that the hotel manager would be a good choice to get a straight answer from.

There at the front desk was a mature gentleman wearing a badge that read: “Hotel Manager.”  Surely, I thought, this guy’s not going to “goof on the tourist.”  I walked up to him and repeated my mantra about the jellyfish strike.  He looked at me with grave concern and said, “Are you feeling any pressure in your chest.”  “No,” I replied, “I’m not feeling any chest pain.”  “OK, good,” he said.  “You need to go down the hall to the small market and get some vinegar and meat tenderizer and put them on one at a time and rub them thoroughly into your chest.”

Finally, I said what I’d been thinking all along… “You can’t be serious, right?”  This is a joke, right?”  “No,” he reassured me this was not a joking matter.  “You need to proceed to the store immediately and apply the remedy.”

Reluctantly, I headed down the hall to the store just knowing that they were all back there laughing at the goofy tourist who was actually going to do a self-imposed “meat rub” on his chest.  I was sure they had some barbecue grill going for when I returned to the lobby all slathered up with vinegar and meat tenderizer.

Entering the small market off the lobby, I  started my search for char-grilled products when I started feeling short of breath.  Suddenly, very quickly and forcefully, I began to experience a crushing weight on my chest.  Was I having a heart attack?  Great!  I’m having a coronary after wasting so much time talking to members of the hotel staff, who were trying to get me to rub meat tenderizer on my chest.  I walked out of the store and staggered to the front desk, which by now was very busy with new guests checking in to the hotel.  I made eye contact with the hotel manager and almost immediately, dropped to the ground, clutching my chest, barely able to gasp “Man O’War!”

What happened next was a total blur.  I seem to remember a small child yelling and pointing at me as I lay there in my bathing suit, gasping for breath.

“Look mommy, there’s a man on the floor.”  The mother said something about staying away from people who do drugs.  I looked over and tried to say no, not drugs – jellyfish! But all that came out was gibberish.

The paramedics rushed to the scene.  Finally, I will be receiving the medical attention I needed. After determining what had happened, the paramedic opened his life-saving kit and I knew he was about to pull out a defibrillator.  I made my peace with God and I braced myself for the big jolt.  Instead, he pulled out – yes, you guessed it – vinegar in a spray bottle and some Adolf’s meat tenderizer!  He then proceeded to spray the vinegar and then sprinkle the meat tenderizer on my chest, and thoroughly rub the mixture around.  Within seconds, literally seconds, the excruciating pain began to subside.  Within a couple minutes, it was almost completely gone.

What I thought was a big “barbeque joke” on the tourist turns out to be a well-known cure for some jellyfish strikes.  You see, the meat tenderizer contains the enzyme papain, which breaks down the toxin proteins and neutralizes them.  It sounds too simple to be really effective, but it is, in fact, one of the best things to do in that situation.

Thinking back on it, I am amazed at how many people gave me the solution before I had to learn the hard way.  Sure, who’s going to believe a cabana boy?  I mean, what does he know, right?  And the hotel employee – OK, maybe there’s the start of a pattern here but, I have a doctoral degree – I’m “smart,” and these guys have just got to be kidding me… right?  And then the hotel manager as well… OK, I admit it, at that point, there’s just no excuse.  Why did I not figure out these guys knew what they were talking about and I did not?

Do not make one of the biggest mistakes that people in business make. Listen to the people who have experience.  I assumed that I just had to know better… and the truth is, I didn’t know better.

There is nothing like experience.  It beats education every day of the week.  The only thing better is a combination of education and experience… or a willingness to learn from other people’s experience. There are many basic referral marketing and networking techniques that any good businessperson knows to be effective.  They don’t try to look for something more complicated or involved because they know from their own experience, as well as the experience of others, what works in business and what doesn’t work in business.

Throughout your life, you may read things that seem too simple to be effective. Ideas that you’ve heard before.  Don’t dismiss them.  Embrace them.  Although these ideas may be simple – they are not easy.  If it they were easy, everyone would do them – and they don’t!  Great networkers learn from other people’s success.  So, go get that vinegar and meat tenderizer and learn from other “masters” that sometimes the simplest ideas can have the biggest impact.

solutions

Focus on solutions, not problems.

What was the last problem you faced?

  • An employee issue
  • A difficult client
  • Financial hurdles
  • Competition from another business
  • Time management concerns
All too often, when facing a problem, the first thing we tend to do is focus on the negative situation. We continue to repeat our patterns, doing the same things that do not work, until we dwell in a feeling of negativity. Many people let their minds wander toward the negative, which then prompts them to focus on more problems instead of searching for ways to resolve the situation and grow from it. You must begin to start focusing on ways to actually resolve the situation by focusing on solutions. Do not just react, take the time to fully analyze the problem then make a list of possible solutions.
  • Identify the problem(s)
  • Identify what you did before in a similar problem
    Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Change what doesn’t work
  • Find and use resources
  • Decide which solution is best
  • Put that solution into play
  • Build on each successive step
  • Try to do more of what works
  • Use an alternative solution if not achieving the required results
Regardless of how bad your problem may be, the solution is there if you think long and hard enough. Not every solution will work for this problem. However, when we start to think of more ways to overcome our problems, we can grow from the situation at hand by being more prepared for the next problem we will face down the road. We can even avoid future problems because if we focus on problems, we will get more problems. If we focus on solutions, we will get more solutions. By being aware and reminding yourself of your list of solutions you just created, you can focus on solutions, not problems.
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